May 22, 2008

Dandelions and other Wild Foods

I should start off by saying that my yard is a haven for dandelions. In fact, I encourage them ;) I'm sure my neighbors are horrified by the wildness of my lawn, but it makes my heart happy every time I lay eyes on it. I've long seen the importance of having a safe, pesticide and herbicide free place to harvest wild foods. I met a woman last week at the market who was so fearful of harvesting dandelions! She kept saying how you had to be so careful of pesticides. Well, there is truth to that. What are your neighbors doing, and does it run off into your lawn, or does the wind carry the vapors to your neck of the woods? These are important considerations. I am fortunate that I have rentals on both sides of me, with an alley out back. I purposely rented a house with a neglected lawn, that had been a rental for about 10 years before I moved in. Renters tend to neglect lawns, and the presence of dandelions and bare spots in the grass confirmed this for me. We also had just come out of several years of water restrictions. So, I earnestly set about encouraging my dandelions. (ha, I wonder how they would feel about being "mine"?) I water the dandelions, and make wishes whenever I can. This spring, as I sat in the front yard harvesting blossoms, I was delighted to discover that I was actually sitting in the middle of a nursery! There were big grandmother plants, and tiny little baby dandelions all throughout the lawn.

There is such a different energetic in wild foods. My breakfast today consisted of buffalo stew meat cooked with fresh shiitakes, onions, olive oil, garlic, barbeque sauce and greens! I wandered around my yard looking for the greens, and feel such deep gratitude that wild, nourishing, free food is there for the asking. I harvested some dandelion greens, and supplemented with spinach, kale and chard from my garden. It felt like a feast!

I have been weeding my garden, preparing to put in summer vegetables. It bothers me to weed. It feels so wasteful, to pull out perfectly happy plants. There is so much to weeding. It is compassionate, making room for others, and nourishing if you can find another use for those misplaced beauties. So, while I ate my breakfast I pulled out my beloved copy of Steve Brill's Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants. I love this book! He gives very good and detailed information, along with common sense cautions. The illustrations are amazing. Also, there are recipes! They are structured to be a guide, and to help you be creative in coming up with recipes of your own. He even breaks it down into habitats and seasons. According to Steve, I can make a salad with those wild lettuce leaves that I have been pulling out of my garden. I think I will include them with my cooked greens for dinner instead, and see how that goes. Some of them, the ones who have volunteered to grow in convenient places, places where veggies don't need to grow, are welcome to stay and grow to their full glory. They get big, at least 5 feet tall, and they make very good medicine. That post will be later in the summer.

As for now, I have leftover buffalo with fresh wild greens to eat for dinner, an old favorite book to read over, salves to make and gardens to build!

Green Blessings!

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